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Authors: Elaine Pagels

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The Origin of Satan

Acclaim for

ELAINE PAGELS’S

The Origin of Satan

“Pagels has achieved something important. . . . Thoughtful

scholarly works that are also original and adventurous are not

common.
The Origin of Satan
is such a work, and we should be

correspondingly grateful.”

—New York Review of Books

“Illuminating and rewarding ... a very readable scholarly work ...

a model of erudition and conciseness.”

—Newsday

“Fascinating and valuable.”

—The Nation

“Lucid and closely reasoned. . . . Pagels remains always a lively

writer who discerns the human implications of esoteric texts and

scholarly disputes.”

—Chicago Tribune

“One of today’s leading interpreters of the world of early

Christianity. . . . She brilliantly shows how otherwise arcane

theology is related to the social context in which it was

conceived.”

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Succeeds wonderfully”

—San Francisco Chronicle

ELAINE PAGELS’S

The Origin of Satan

Elaine Pagels is Harrington Spear Paine Professor of

Religion at Princeton University. Professor Pagels

received her doctorate from Harvard University in 1970

and has taught at Barnard College, where she chaired

the Department of Religion, and at Columbia

University. She was responsible for editing several of

the texts from Nag Hammadi and has written four other

books:
The Johannine Gospel in Gnostic Exegesis
;
The

Gnostic Paul:
Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters
;
The

Gnostic Gospels
; and
Adam, Eve, and the Serpent
. The

Gnostic Gospels won the National Book Critics Circle

Award and the National Book Award. Professor Pagels

was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981. She lives

and teaches in Princeton, New Jersey.

ALSO BY ELAINE PAGELS

Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

The Gnostic Gospels

The Johannine Gospel in Gnostic Exegesis

The Gnostic Paul:

Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters

THE ORIGIN OF SATAN

[THIS PAGE WAS INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK]

THE

ORIGIN OF SATAN

ELAINE PAGELS

Vintage Books

A DIVISION OF RANDOM HOUSE, INC.

NEW YORK

FIRST VINTAGE BOOKS EDITION, MAY 1996

Copyright • 1995 by Elaine Pagels

Al1 rights reserved under International and Pan-American

Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by

Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and

simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited,

Toronto. Originally published in hardcover by Random House,

Inc., New York, in 1995.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the

Random House edition as follows:

Pagels, Elaine.

The origin of Satan / Elaine Pagels. — 1st ed.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-679-40140-7

1. Devil—Biblical teaching. 2. Bible. N. T. Gospels—Criticism,

interpretation, etc. 3. Christianity and antisemitism. I. Title.

BS2555.6.D5P34 1995

235'.47—dc20 95-7983

Vintage ISBN: 0-679-73118-0

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5

To SARAH AND DAVID

with love

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S

This book is based upon research originally presented, for the

most part, in scholarly publications (cited at the beginning of

each chapter's notes) and revised to make it more generally

accessible. During the six years of research and writing, I have

consulted with many scholars and friends. First I wish to thank

John Gager, Rosemary Reuther, and Krister Stendahl, whose

research and teaching have contributed so much to illuminate

the issues. I especially thank those colleagues and friends who

read the manuscript and offered corrections and criticism: Glen

Bower-sock, Elizabeth Diggs, Howard Clark Kee, Kent

Greenawalt, Wayne Meeks, Sharon Olds, Eugene Schwartz,

Alan Segal, Peter Stern, and S. David Sperling; and those who

offered comments and criticism on portions of the work as it was

in progress, including John Gager, Vernon Robbins, and James

Robinson, who read the sections on New Testament sources;

Steven Mullaney, who read and commented on the sources

presented in chapter 1; John Collins, Louis Feldman, Paul

Hanson, Martha Himmelfarb, Helmut Koester, Doron Mendels,

and George Nickelsburg, who read and commented on the

sources presented in chapter 2; and Peter Brown, who read and

commented on the article on which part of chapter 6 is based. No

doubt each of these colleagues will disagree with some of my

conclusions, for which I must take responsibility. Research for

this book began when I was a visitor at the School of Historical

Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study

x / ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

in 1990-91 and resumed there in 1994-95. I am most grateful to

the members of that school for their gracious hospitality in

making available to me, as to many others, the serene and

collegial environment the Institute offers. I owe special thanks to

Ruth Simmons, Vice Provost of Princeton University, to Jeffrey

Stout, Chair of the Department of Religion, and to Robert

Gunning, Dean of the Faculty, for making possible a leave to

complete the research and writing in 1994-95, and to the

National Endowment for the Humanities for the fellowship that

supported me during that year.

I wish to thank my colleagues in the Department of Religion at

Princeton University, both for conversations that have

contributed much to the process and for their grace and

understanding during these years, and also to thank the graduate

students who struggled through the Greek texts with me in our

seminar: Gideon Bohack, Robert Cro, Nicola Denzey, Obery

Hendricks, Anne Merideth, Sharon Hefetz, and Joel Walker.

There are certain people without whose participation I cannot

imagine having written this book. I am very fortunate and

privileged to have worked with Jason Epstein as editor, and

deeply appreciate the insight, wit, and passion for clarity he has

brought to this process, along with his enthusiastic support.

Helaine Randerson has worked on the manuscript through the

entire process, offering incisive comments and editorial criticism

along with her astonishingly expert manuscript preparation.

John Brockman and Katinka Matson have offered encouragement

on the project from the beginning, and have contributed in

innumerable ways. I am grateful, too, to Anne Merideth for her

collaboration in finding research materials, as well as for her

excellent judgment on many issues we discussed. I have

appreciated and enjoyed working with Virginia Avery, whose

editorial suggestions have improved the text; and also thank Joy

de Menil for all that she contributed.

Finally, I am grateful to the many friends whose presence and

personal support in ways known to each of them helped see me

through these difficult years since my husband's death, and

mention in particular Malcolm Diamond, Elizabeth Diggs, Sarah

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS / xi

Duben-Vaughn, Kent Greenawalt, my brother and sister-in-law,

Ralph and Jane Hiesey, Kristin Hughes, Elizabeth and Niccola

Khuri, Emily McCulley, Sharon and David Olds, Albert Rabo-

teau, Kathy Murtaugh, and Margot Wilkie.

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